There are no fluffy bunnies, sunny glades and soft-focus flowers at Stephen Webster. The world he inhabits is a shady forest that you could easily get lost in, filled with thorny trees, mysterious creatures and pretty but potentially poisonous plants.
Webster is the master of darkness, a trailblazer of British jewellery design who has singlehandedly created a brand that is recognised for its daring designs combined with excellent craftsmanship. With a loyal global fanbase and more than 200 points of sale worldwide, he has an impressive roster of celebrity clients, including Madonna, Kate Beckinsale and Sir Elton John. His edgy jewellery is so popular, in fact, that he was awarded an MBE in the new year for his contribution to British craftsmanship.
"Things have changed," Webster says. "The fear factor, the reverence and the rather staid formality have all but disappeared. Magazines now have fashion shoots featuring H&M jeans accented by £10,000 diamond rings. Adding a diamond-studded detail to a watch or a piece of jewellery no longer marks a customer as a flashy, ostentatious type. It just makes a person look more...lively."
At Baselworld 2013, to celebrate his 15th years of Stephen Webster, the house launched an entry-level collection, a fine jewellery line called Stephen Webster Purple as well as jewels that revisit some of the brand's iconic designs. The new Fly by Night pieces seen here, inspired by the original 2008 collection, are a highlight. Set with sparkling black diamonds, white diamonds, emeralds and sapphires, the work is, as always, superb, and the designs so wickedly enchanting that the jewels could have been plucked straight out of a Grimm's fairytale.
No one can tell a tale through jewellery quite like Webster. The new Fly by Night designs are inspired by nocturnal winged creatures found within the murkiest forests. "They are not butterflies and nor are they moths," Webster told me when I saw him at Baselworld in the new booth designed by The blackened gold pieces in particular, featuring black diamond-set moths and teardrop emeralds for leaves, are darkly, devastatingly beautiful. An across-the-finger ring in white gold and white diamonds, set with a singular moth, is dainty and refined, yet there is still that undercurrent of danger.
"The figurative nature of Fly by Night means that we have the ability to revive this story and offer, once again, the fantasy and wit that Stephen Webster clients have come to expect and enjoy," explains Webster. Just one story in a whole enchanting book of Webster-penned tales, Fly by Night is being retold through this darkly beautiful new collection of jewels.